|photo Wojciech Wandzel|
I'm on my first visit to Poland. There was a nip and the smell of smoked sausage in the air when I arrived early on the overnight train from Prague and the horses drawn carriages were just beginning their first circuits of the Stare Miasto . The attraction is Misteria Paschalia, a week long festival dedicated to early sacred music with events taking place nightly in various venues around the historic city. The programme last night featured the exhumation of a 'sepulchro', a rare sacred opera by a 17th century Italian composer unknown to me, Antonio Draghi. First performed in Vienna, Il Terremoto is described in the handsome programme notes as being a 'a Hallowed Play for the Holiest Sepulcre of Christ in the Most Magnificent Chapel of her Holy Roman Majesty Empress Eleanor'. The experience was like seeing a Fra Lippi, Renaissiance painting come to life with an early music sound track provided by the elegant and spirited playing of the combined forces of Polish and French Baroque ensembles, Arte dei Suonatori and La Poeme Harmonique under Vincent Dumestre. A terrific ensemble effort, among the most unusual voices heard was that of counter tenor Domenique Visse. I loved the sound of the wire strung harp and I've never seen a viola de gamba player play his instrument like a lute before. The setting, the chiaroscuro lighting effects, the costumes and the dramatic performances made this quite unlike any oratorio experience I've had to date. Superb!
As I conclude, the Virgin Mary, the Centurian, San Giovanni have just got into a taxi outside my hotel. It seems like a parallel universe to see the performers in civies.